In response to Tyson Foods' recent launch of a new FarmCheck audit program, R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard says the program is an infringement on farmer's property rights, and has asked the USDA and Department of Justice to investigate its legality.
The program is currently working on a trial basis at some Tyson hog suppliers, and is intended to improve farm animal welfare monitoring. The company plans to expand the program to beef and poultry facilities in the future.
Tyson estimates the program will eventually oversee animal care at more than 12,000 independent livestock and poultry farms. R-CALF says the information collected at those farms through the audit program will "enable the mega-corporation to add valuable marketing information to its meat products sold to consumers."
RCALF is asking the USDA and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the new program before it goes into full effect to determine if it violates U.S. antitrust laws and the Packers and Stockyards Act by eliminating choices and competition for independent U.S. farmers and ranchers.
The group says the program not only infringes on property rights, but also exacerbates limited market availability. Bullard says that nearly one-fourth of the 85% of the nation's steer and heifer slaughter is controlled by four corporations, limiting producer options.
"That means in many regional cattle markets where U.S. cattle feeders have only Tyson and one other buyer for their cattle, those cattle feeders will be forced to capitulate to Tyson's command-and-control FarmCheck audit program or face the consequences of having only one remaining buyer and no competition for their cattle," Bullard says.
Bullard says the program will violate the privacy of farmers and ranchers and charge customers a "premium price for the information it has extracted for free."
"If Tyson wants this valuable marketing information, it should offer a premium to family farmers and ranchers who wish to participate," Bullard says. "But, Tyson knows it possesses monopolistic power in the U.S. cattle market and it is brazenly exercising its monopolistic power to exploit independent U.S. family farmers and ranchers."
"Where else but in a monopoly controlled market can a corporation infringe on the private property rights of independent farmers and ranchers to extract valuable marketing information without having to pay a dime?" Bullard says.